“Where did all the money go?”
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner (D) stepped in it when he complained about the state’s control over federal dollars.
Monday, Tuner, who is up for re-election, tweeted:
The state of Texas has taken over spending federal money for flood mitigation. But the state has failed to expedite previous spending—Houston is still getting money for Ike recovery. This is a money grab by the state to spend it in places outside Houston and Harris County.
— Sylvester Turner (@SylvesterTurner) October 8, 2019
It didn’t take long for Texas’ Governor, Greg Abbott (R) to respond.
Mayor you DEMANDED that Houston get its own allocation of over $1 billion in Fed. funds to rebuild housing.
You've rebuilt less than 10. Where did all the money go?
During that same time the General Land Office has rebuilt almost 1,000.
The GLO didn't slow you down. You did. https://t.co/QdUJUaPeWJ
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) October 8, 2019
Two years ago you DEMANDED the State provide Houston with advance funding to respond to the hurricane & predicted dire results if you didn't get it.
In Sept. 2017 I immediately handed you checks for more than $100 million. Today 35% of that remains unspent.
Where'd it go? https://t.co/QdUJUaPeWJ
— Greg Abbott (@GregAbbott_TX) October 8, 2019
Turner has a penchant for winding up in the middle of money scandals, scandals which usually involved allegations of misappropriations of funds or of tossing his friends some government contract coin.
Ken Webster Jr. outlined some of Turner’s more notable scandals:
- Turner has spent around $400 million of tax payer money without city council’s approval (up to $50,000 maximum). This happened during a budget squeeze. After being asked to show documents related to this spending (which is legally required under the Texas Public Information Act), Turner insisted it would take 155,000 hours to assemble the documents (the equivalent of 75 people working full time for a year) and the cost of copying the contracts would be at least $2.8 million.
- Turner gave health insurance provider Cigna information about medical claims during the bidding process for Houston’s healthcare plan but failed to share that information with competitors. Cigna was eventually awarded the contract. Turner’s close personal friend, Cindy Clifford, is the lobbyist for Cigna, according to city records.Cindy has been seen in photos on social media visiting with Mayor Turner and his family, despite swearing in lobbying reports that she hasn’t given gifted them. The budget for health benefits for Houston in 2019 is $435 million.That’s big money.
- Turner was unable to manage the city budget after voters overwhelmingly passed Prop B, a decision to pay firefighters a livable wage. This pushed our city further into the red and caused a budget crisis. Houston spent millions of dollars training these firefighters and now hundreds of them will lose their jobs because Turner couldn’t (or wouldn’t) manage our city’s budget in an effective manner. In the entire history of Houston we’ve never laid off firefigthers until now (including during the Great Depression).
- During a hiring freeze in response to Prop B, Turner hired almost 900 new city workers despite suggesting we didn’t have enough funds to pay firefighters. Many of those employees still had their jobs in April.
- Turner’s Communications Director used a city facility to work on her personal pet project: a reality TV show concept that had nothing to do with Houston residents or tax payers. This is the local government equivalent of taking the company car on a road trip with all your friends and charging them for its use.
- In 2015 Turner campaigned on the promise to fix Houston’s potholes. Since then little to nothing has been done to fix the potholes and more recently Turner actually instructed a city employee to create a new pothole with a jackhammer so Turner could participate in a photo-op in which he pretended to fix the recently created hole-in-the-street. Amazingly, there were thousands of real potholes he could have used for the photo but he chose to create a new one instead.
- Turner has consistently misused funds from the Rebuild Houston infrastructure plan for non-relevant spending on pet projects.
- Theft crimes in the city has spiked despite a thriving economy. Historically crime usually goes down when the economy improves, but not under Turner’s watch.
- Turner gave a $6.735 million contract to his former law partner, Barry Barnes. This contract wasn’t assigned to handle legal matters.Instead it was for “outreach, intake and case management services” related to “potential” applicants for the Federal Housing Disaster money.
- Turner spent a half a million to hire a team of lawyers (more of the mayor’s personal friends) to fight the firefighters in court. (Side note – Houston lawyer and mayoral candidate Tony Buzbee offered his services pro bono to Houston firefighters if the city proceeded with litigation against them.)
- And let’s not forget the insurance fraud allegations.
That list doesn’t even include the most recent scandal which involves a $95k paid “executive internship.” The icing on that cake?
— Holly Hansen (@hollyshansen) October 9, 2019
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